Benin - US Relations
The United States and Benin have had an excellent history of relations in the years since Benin embraced democracy. The U.S. Government continues to assist Benin with the improvement of living standards that are key to the ultimate success of Benin's experiment with democratic government and economic liberalization, and are consistent with U.S. values and national interest in reducing poverty and promoting growth. The bulk of the U.S. effort in support of consolidating democracy in Benin is focused on long-term human resource development through U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs.
Efforts to pursue this national interest are spearheaded by USAID, which has effective programs focused on primary education, family health (including family planning), women's and children's health, and combating sexually transmitted diseases, especially the spread of HIV. USAID's Democracy and Governance program also emphasizes encouraging greater civil society involvement in national decision-making; strengthening mechanisms to promote transparency and accountability; improving the environment for decentralized private and local initiatives; and enhancing the electoral system and the national legislature. A panoply of military-to-military cooperation programs reinforces democratizing efforts. U.S.-Benin military cooperation has expanded, both bilaterally and within a broader regional framework.
In February 2006, the Government of Benin signed a 5-year $307 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact to increase investment and private sector activity in Benin. The program removed key constraints to growth and supported improvements in physical and institutional infrastructures in four critical sectors: land, financial services, justice, and markets. The projects reinforced each other to contribute to an economic rate of return of 17%. Benin closed out its MCC Compact on October 6, 2011. On December 15, Benin was selected as eligible to develop a second MCC Compact.
The U.S. advances the ethos of law enforcement by working with Beninese authorities to crack down on crimes; help eradicate corruption; and promote good governance, the rule of law, and greater official accountability.
The U.S. Public Affairs Office in Cotonou leads the U.S.-Benin cultural, professional, and educational exchanges, with a focus on helping educate the Government of Benin and the public on the trade opportunities and advantages of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The PA Office also helps in expanding efforts to build a more responsible media.
The U.S. Peace Corps program in Benin provides ongoing opportunities for increased understanding between Beninese and Americans. The approximately 112 volunteers promote sustainable development through activities in health, education, the environment, and small enterprise development. The U.S. Peace Corps program in Benin is one of the most successful in Africa, in part because of Beninese receptivity and collaboration.
Currently, trade between Benin and the United States is small, but interest in American products is growing. The United States is interested in promoting increased trade with Benin in order to contribute to U.S. trade with Benin's neighbors, particularly Nigeria, Niger, and Burkina Faso, which receive large amounts of their own imports through the port of Cotonou. Such trade also is facilitated by Benin's membership in ECOWAS and in the CFA franc monetary zone. The U.S. Government also works to stimulate American investment in key sectors such as energy, telecommunications, and transportation. Benin has been eligible for AGOA since the program began in 2000. It qualified for AGOA textile and apparel benefits in January 2004.
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